Building Security for Commercial Property Owners and Tenants

Whether you are an owner or tenant, building security is important both from the standpoint of keeping people safe and property secure. Gone is the time when just locking the door was enough. Today, preventing crime in office buildings, industrial sites and retail centers may require technology as well as security personnel. Of course, there is a range of options within these two means, and the best plan will depend on the type of building and tenants, the size and the budget available for security expenditures. Here are the latest best practices for securing your building.

Develop a Culture of Safety

No doubt you’ve heard about different “corporate cultures.” Well, safety and security has a culture, too. According to OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor), establishing and promoting a culture of safety can reduce the risk of crime in the workplace.
For a safety culture to be effective, everyone—from top executives to summer interns—must know the tenets and feel personally responsible for upholding them. Building owners as well as individual tenants may have cultures that overlap. For example, a building may have one set of protocols for occupants entering or leaving after normal workday hours, while a business follows other rules. Ideally, the procedures will complement each other and serve to more strongly support the safety culture.

Building Security Systems

The type of system that is best for your building will depend on several factors including square footage, number of entrances and exits, the type of tenants you have and—of course—the budget. However, there is so much technology now, that almost any building or business owner can provide some kind of security to safeguard people and property.

The following are some ways to use technology for added security.

Install video cameras. Cameras near doorways record ingress and egress of occupants as well as visitors. Just the conspicuous placement of cameras can be a deterrent to criminals. For larger buildings, closed-circuit television (CCTV) can be a worthwhile investment. Instead of showing building areas at random times, these can now be activated to record a specific viewing area when an alarm goes off.

Use electronic keys. Unlike standard keys, electronic keys can be programmed to open specific doors for designated time periods. Similarly, if a key gets lost (or is not returned by a terminated employee) the system can be reprogrammed to deny access to that key.

Have an alarm system. Many types of systems are available and the three most well known are:

  • A monitored alarm system contacts a call center to notify police if the alarm sounds.
  • An unmonitored system triggers an alarm inside and outside the building. Some also come with floodlights that flash to draw attention.
  • A wireless alarm system is relatively inexpensive and often easy to install. With cameras, motion detectors and sensors, this system may be ideal for a small building.

For large office or industrial properties, Building Automation Systems (BAS) are often connected to companies’ security access control systems and other technologies to create what is now called a “smart building.” Smart buildings share data among HVAC, lighting, security and other systems in order to achieve greater efficiency, safety and comfort at lower operating costs. Siemens, Johnson Controls and Schneider Electric are three of the companies that have approaches to the smart building concept.

Security Personnel

When it comes to hiring security, one size does not fit all. For small businesses, the best solution might be a receptionist behind a desk with a hidden emergency assist button. Larger companies and properties, on the other hand, may need to hire an outside security service firm to monitor cameras, walk the property and assign badges to visitors among other tasks.

But even small property owners may need to hire security personnel for hours after dark or if tenants have employees that typically work late. As a business or property owner, you may be held responsible if someone is a victim of theft or an attack while leaving work. Besides security, you can help keep employees safe by making sure buildings and parking lots are well lit and trees, plants and other landscaping are trimmed so potential perpetrators have no where to hide.

Another important thing security does is get to know the people who regularly use your commercial property. This way, an unfamiliar face is quickly recognizable. Similarly, employees need to be aware of security and encouraged to adhere to the simple rule of not admitting people without a company badge or appropriate identification.

Preparing for Emergency Situations

In addition to daily security, plans for responding to different emergency situations must also be in place. Most commonly, your team may need to take shelter if severe weather strikes. In Texas, this can mean thunderstorms, wind, hail, lightning, and tornadoes. The key to safety and survival often hinges on having a plan in place before storms are on the horizon.

In case of fire, everyone must know how to exit the building. Once outside, employees should gather in one designated location in order to know that everyone got out safely.

Finally, an active shooter emergency action plan is a sad necessity today. We see the terrifying scenes on television and social media, but never imagine such an incident happening where we work. Nevertheless, lives may be saved when people know how to respond. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers guidelines, as well as the website


The information contained in this article is general in nature and should not be construed as financial, tax or legal advice.  As with any financial or legal matter, consult your tax advisor and legal counsel.